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«Bü-Bü-Bündnerfleisch» – im Herbst 2010 ging der Lachanfall von Ex-Bundesrat Hans-Rudolf Merz um die Welt.

Inquiry: What is Bündnerfleisch?

"So raw and yet so fine. So tender and yet so strong. So dry and yet so juicy. Bündnerfleisch is not just an ordinary dried meat, but the top product from the Grisons mountains - and a unique experience.
Bündnerfleisch is made exclusively from the best beef. Bündnerfleisch is always refined to the highest quality standards. Bündnerfleisch is dried for several weeks at high altitudes in Graubünden. But it is only when it is finely sliced that Bündnerfleisch unfolds its incomparable character. Full of strength, full of tenderness. Full of protein and virtually fat-free. That is Bündnerfleisch. The best for enjoyment and health."

Sounds great, doesn't it? At least this is the answer to the title question if you search for it on Google and then look on the official site of buendnerfleisch.swiss. You would love to buy a piece right away and bite into it with relish. After all, it comes from the Grisons mountains...or so you think...and the memories of your last holiday in the Swiss mountain canton come very much to life again.

But is Bündnerfleisch really made from Bündner meat?

But is Bündnerfleisch really meat from the farm? Do the cows come from a Graubünden farm? Does the farmer feed his animals only with Graubünden fodder, i.e. local grass? And when people talk about health, Bündnerfleisch is certainly produced in its natural state without any unnecessary additives ... or is it?

In fact, no concrete answers to these questions can be found on the above website. After consulting the Specifications you then also find that salting, drying and quality control must take place on the territory of the canton of Graubünden. However, the origin of the animals and the use of additives such as nitrite curing salt are not regulated. In fact, much of the meat produced in Graubünden is actually made from imported animals!

Bü-Bü-Bündnerfleisch

"Bü-Bü-Bündnerfleisch" - in autumn 2010, ex-Federal Councillor Hans-Rudolf Merz's laughing fit went around the world. At YouTube the clip of the Finance Minister was clicked on millions of times. 

What lies behind it, however, is less funny in our eyes. It is about the tariff quotas for red meat, which were finally changed in 2020. Of the 1,200 tonnes that may be imported annually, Switzerland reserves a minimum quantity of 600 tonnes for the import of salted and already seasoned beef. This meat is already cut for the production of dried meat - which includes Bündnerfleisch - and cannot be used for any other purpose.

Because Bündnerfleisch was entered in the register of designations of origin and geographical indications as a PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) back in 1999, it is also not subject to the Swissness regulations.

The moment of shock

Through his studies to become a food engineer and his experiences as a child in his grandfather's meat room, Alpahirt founder Adrian Hirt knew that things could be much better. 

So a shock moment in 2010 changed his life and also his attitude towards Bündnerfleisch. He realised that we were all spending less and less money on food, and at the same time the costs of health care were rising. There had to be something rotten here. 

Alpahirt was then founded in 2013. At first, the company also produced certified Bündnerfleisch from Bündner cows. But Adrian was not happy with that. 

He did not like the fact that nitrite curing salt is normally used, which comes from the laboratory and has been repeatedly accused of carcinogenic properties for years. He also did not like the fact that only a fraction of the meat used to make Bündnerfleisch actually came from Graubünden. 

How could it be that such a typical Swiss speciality is not 100 % Swiss? How could it be that in most cases it was not Graubünden farmers who supplied the meat, but a large company from Argentina, Brazil or Ireland? How could it be that there are additives in it, even though he knew that it could be done without? 
Adrian wanted more ... much more! 

Meat ex farm

So today, at Alpahirt, all the meat is actually from the farm. More precisely, from a Graubünden farm. From a mother cow farmer, organic, BTS, Raus, grass-fed ... unfortunately, there is not yet a label that reflects Alpahirt's standards. The meat for the Mountain meatwhich is not pressed naturally, comes from around 80 farmers from the Surselva region in Graubünden. 

The cows were allowed relatively old on average 10 years. Throughout their long lives, they have been able to eat what suits their nature, namely grass, herbs and, in winter, hay. Alpahirt's farmer-partners do not use any foreign feed, such as imported concentrated feed. Here, the animals are allowed to go to the Grisons alpine pastures every summer and suckle their calves - just as it should be.

However, the meat of these Graubünden cows, which is produced exclusively in Graubünden by small local producers, may not be sold as Bündnerfleisch. 

Alpahirt did not want to process non-local meat.
Alpahirt did not want to use nitrite curing salt or other additives.
Alpahirt did not want to have to press his meat into rectangles. 

So what was the logical and only possible consequence? Returning the certification as a producer of Bündnerfleisch in 2018 and turning to something of our own, something truly local, something purely natural, something worthy of an alpine herderman. 

By the way: Do you know why Bündnerfleisch has to be pressed into a rectangle? So that more can fit on the plane. And given today's energy prices, that's actually quite sustainable... isn't it? 

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